Its been quite awhile since my last blog. I can gratefully blame my absence on my new job, my relationship with Keith and day-to-day life. As time is moving forward, things are coming together. Time has changed to move forward: the days are getting longer, the weather is getting warmer and I am excited to say that I am able to take my super long beach walks again. (Its time to battle off those 6 pounds gained this winter!) On those days where the turf beckons, I put in place my ear buds, hit the button for slacker radio on my cell phone, and trudge through the sand finding myself lost in the salt air and the sounds of the waves hitting the shore. It’s during those beach walks that life philosophy rushes through my mind. It is easy for my mind to stray and become consumed in any random thoughts of its chosing.
During my walk yesterday, it dawned on me, in just over 30 days I will be divorced. It’s hard to believe that it has been almost one year ago since that fateful day that my marriage ended. My mind began to return to memories that I would have rather forgotten at a certain point in my life: but ones that I am now at ease with and can gladly allow myself to return to from time to time. The randomness of my own internal conversation is one that I will not share with you, for fear that I might prove myself as crazy, but the topic is one that has lingered in my thoughts throughout the weekend.
I allowed my mind to roam over the 11 years that C. and I were married. For probably the 100th time since last April, I dotted from the first night we met, to the first few years filled with happiness, the years that I forced myself to believe it was acceptable to be unhappy because I was married, and the heartbreak of the last few years of our marriage as I watched it crumble out of my control. For the 101th time, I wondered why it took so long for freedom to find me and how I ever rationalized and convinced myself it was ok to be sad and lonely. For some reason I cannot explain, I began to think about an old co-worker. We had both been hired with the same company on the same day in 2005. We went through a lot of training together and we eventually came to know each other pretty well. He was an unattractive, ill-mannered, honorary sort of person, that made you wonder if there was ever anything in life that made him smile. His outlook was always pessimistic, his sarcasm flowed to the point of annoyance and his wife was exactly like him. They would go on vacations to exotic places and he would bring in photos filled with them on the beach, on cruises, at nice restaurants. etc. Not one of those pictures ever included a smile, hand holding, or their arms around each other. My manager and I would rudely talk about their relationship behind his back. The company moved him to our sister site ,just 15 miles down the road from us and the office rejoiced in knowing that his negativity and bad attitude were gone. For him, he welcomed the move. The place was a satellite office, he was the only person on staff and he welcomed not having to be around people. He and his wife shared the same mentality, they had no friends, partook in no social activities and lived in their own miserable isolation. Fate intervened, unfortunately, during St. Patty’s day weekend in 2008 when his wife died of a massive heart attack in her sleep. He was devastated. His world collapsed and many of us wondered if he would survive. As the months moved forward, we all took turns taking him out to lunch, bringing meals to his home, inviting him to social activities. At first, he refused our offers and appeared doomed to a life of isolation. As time moved forward, not only would you find his door open when you visited his home but we all began to notice his heart open as well. He began sharing his life story with us: from his mother dying when he was a very young age, to his father dying a year before his wife and his brother-in-law committing suicide just a few short months after his wife passed. He shared meeting his wife in NY at a very young age, not one of us ever knew that she was 15 years older than him. When they met, she was settled into her teaching career and he was just a lad not quite sure what he wanted to do with life. His wife convinced him to move in with her, she enrolled him into college without his permission or consent and slowly began to take control of his life. I have to assume, loosing his mother at such a young age, conjured up feelings of inadequacy in his heart and meeting an older woman, willing to take him in, guide him down the path of life and share her maternal instincts with him was very appealing at his young age. He was 17 and she was 32 when they married. At one point in his life, he had been happy, vibrant and full of life: he shared old photo albums with us and I almost fell out of my chair at the pictures of him smiling and having a good time. As we all became closer to him, we began to edge him on to go out to dinner, we put together on online dating profile for him, we convinced him to sell his fathers house and when he was ready, we all drove to his home and helped him box his wifes belongings. Over the last two years of my employment with our company, he became a very close friend of mine and my ex husbands. It was amazing to watch him transform into a man who I never imagined possible. As the years of our friendship moved forward, he shared stories of he and his wife’s life together, and we all began to realize just how controlling of a woman she had been. In the early years of their marriage, she had layed the groundwork for how they would lead their life, and she gave him the option of an early out if it was a life he did not feel he wanted. She did not like parties, church, festivals, basically any activity that involved having to be around people. She would work, pay half of the bills, clean and cook and in return, she expected him to work, pay half the bills and remain faithful. I was shocked to know, the last 10 years of their marriage, they slept in separate rooms. They were married 30+ years when she died.
In the beginning, I watched him mourn. He flowed through the patterns like clock work. He lost weight, he cried at the drop of a hat, he felt sorry for himself, he hated going home, he would not move anything in the house: for the first year after her death, he refused to sleep in the bed, he would sleep on the couch where she died. He carried photos of her in his pocket, in his car, on his desk; photos that had not been there before her death. It broke my heart to watch him in those first stages, he genuinely was devastated. That first Christmas, we literally yanked him by his ear, tied him into the backseat of the car and forced him into a Christmas social at the local Catholic Church. That night, I saw a spark ignite. It was wonderful to watch him excitedly begin to relish in a new life he had never known. He became a whole new man. He began to date, his social calendar was NEVER empty. Heck, sometimes we would go a month and not hear from him, only to find he had been on vacation for a week in Bermuda, met a woman there and brought her back to the States. Eventually, he began to date a woman who had no traits or comparisons to his deceased wife. She was vivacious, full of life, laughed all the time and feel head over heels in love with him. They became engaged, he sold his house and the last time I talked to him, they were living in Virginia near her son and he was enjoying being called Granddad. (he never had children)
I began to wonder why his heart led him to lead a life of isolation for so many years, denying himself the life he longed for. What made him be accepting of existing and spending his days brimming with unhappiness and negativity? Why would you spend over ten years of your marriage, never touching each other, sleeping in separate rooms? Did he ever long for laughter, a soft touch from his wife, a tender hug or that look of passion that you share with someone who knows your soul? How many days did he spend, convincing himself it was ok and acceptable , just because he had found a life of daily routine and a comfort that he was afraid of losing? It took almost two years to convince him to break that comfort zone, but once he did, you cannot imagine the differences in him.
I look at the differences in myself since a year ago. I remember the loneliness, emptiness and just plain sadness that I carried in my heart for years. I remember feeling unloved when my husband would berate me, I remember feeling unworthy when he would aggressively insult me and I remember wondering what I had to do to make him love me. I changed everything about myself for him and he still never loved me like I needed him to. I changed my friends, my beliefs, my appearance, my daily activities, etc. By the time I realized the err of my ways, there was a comfort in the sadness. I could depend on being lonely, I was not let down anymore at the rejection it had become my crutch. I convinced myself because he did not physically hit me, cheat on me, do drugs or drink to excess that I would be a fool to leave. Because he could present himself in the public as such an upstanding person, he had a great job, and we could afford things I could never have on my own, I bowed my head and accepted my life. I accepted my fate and I learned to live with all of it.
As I was returning home, ironically, I passed a gentleman walking his dog that carried many resemblances to my old co-worker. I came in the condo, logged onto my Facebook and searched his name. As I was scrolling through hundreds of profiles looking for a familiar face, there he was. His face stretched in a “possum eating” grin, happiness radiated through the computer. His arms wrapped tightly around his new wife, hers around him and they looked happy.
I have no regrets. My life has led me to a great place of peace and I may not be here if I could go back in time and change anything. I am a work in progress but I have pride in myself. I know who I am and the things I want and I am willing to work hard and honestly to get them. I have made mistakes, I have made bad choices, but bottom line, I forgive myself. I have to. I am loveable, deserving and human and I will accept no more than what makes me happy.
I , by no means, am comparing myself to someone who has lost a loved on in death. Instead, I have revisited too many times the death of my marriage. I have mourned, I have cried, I have carried guilt and anger. Now its my time for happiness. I forgive myself and I open my heart to the many wonders of the world that I have yet to experience. In honor of my friend, whose radiance I envy, I trust myself enough to carry me through my future. I can do this!